DIY Headlight Cleaning

Headlights are notorious for developing that cloudy film. Most of us don’t know what to do when it happens or even why it happens, but that’s what we’re here to tell you.

The cloudy film that plagues your headlights can be explained by simple oxidation. Plastic, when exposed to the elements day in and day out, will oxidize and deteriorate. There are things you can do or buy to help slow down this process, but if you’re like me, it’s too late for that.

After ample research, I believe I have found the most popular methods to try in removing or reducing this plastic film. For all methods, it is important that you thoroughly clean and dry your headlights with soapy water to remove surface dirt and grime.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

This was recommended as a first-choice attempt since it doesn’t take much or cost much to try. All you’ll need is some water, white vinegar, baking soda, and a cloth; a toothbrush will also work.

First, I recommend lightly wetting the headlight so the baking soda will stick. Then apply baking soda. Wet your cloth or brush with vinegar and begin scrubbing your headlight in circular motions, don’t afraid to be too rough. After a few minutes, rinse the headlights and repeat as needed.

Once again, this won’t remove oxidation very well, but it may remove enough dirt and grime to make a difference. After all, the ingredients are cheap and worth a shot if it means not having to spend more money.


This isn’t too dissimilar from the above method. All you need is some regular, non-gel toothpaste. If it has baking soda in the ingredients, that is an added bonus, but not necessary as you can add some yourself for the extra abrasiveness. You will also need a toothbrush, hard or medium preferred but just whatever is cheap.

The first step is to apply a very generous amount to the headlight with your fingertips, spread all over. Then scrub in a circular motion with your toothbrush. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse and repeat as needed.


Buy the kit. Follow the instructions.

Wet Sanding

This is a much more laborious and time-consuming process, but it will significantly reduce or remove that oxidized layer on your headlight. As this process requires multiple steps, we’ll explain it all in the next post here.

Tell Us Your Method

Those are all the methods we’ve found in our short research. There was one about bug spray, but that slightly terrified us, so we decided not to include it. If you have any other methods for removing that foggy layer on your headlights, let us know in the comments below!

Also, tell us which of these methods work best for you. Good luck and happy adventures!


Author: B. Delamater


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